A massively ambitious compilation of history and stuff that will appeal to students of Napoleon and art history buffs but...

THE CAESAR OF PARIS

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, ROME, AND THE ARTISTIC OBSESSION THAT SHAPED AN EMPIRE

Voluminous chronicle of Napoleon’s fanaticism about Roman antiquity and an ample catalog of his empire’s acquisitions.

A journalist specializing in art and docent at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Jaques (The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia, 2016, etc.) evidently has the eye and relish for the objet d’art, as she gives exhaustive treatment to Napoleon’s studied appropriation of Roman imperial ritual, style, and trappings. His mythomania compelled him to dizzying heights of cultural plunder and enrichment. His conquering model was, of course, Caesar (and before him, Alexander the Great), whose triumphal processions through Rome bearing priceless booty from vanquished lands Napoleon re-enacted through the festooned streets of Paris once he consolidated power. Masterpieces seized during the Italian and Egyptian campaigns, unceremoniously ripped from temples, galleries, and altars, were relocated to Paris and displayed ceremonially for public “morale and patriotism,” since France alone was the civilized heir to the ancient civilizations. Jaques moves chronologically over 15 years, from Napoleon’s Consulate to Imperium and attempted dynasty, to record the systematic construction of his “New Rome” in Paris. He employed the work of artist Vivant Denon and designers Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, among others, to set the neoclassical tone at his court and palaces like Malmaison and Saint-Cloud. As Jaques amply shows, the empire’s style was defined by Greek and Roman motifs in furniture, medallions, and jewelry; short hairstyles; and modest gowns in expensive French textiles. Meanwhile, Italian sculptor Antonio Canova created canonical neoclassical works like Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker. Framed by the historical context, the author’s accretion of detail both impresses and becomes tiresome, spilling over into grand schemes of architecture like the Arc de Triomphe and Madeleine Church, Hadrian columns and Egyptian obelisks, and aqueduct systems modeled on Rome.

A massively ambitious compilation of history and stuff that will appeal to students of Napoleon and art history buffs but overwhelm general readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-869-3

Page Count: 574

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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